Secretary Shinseki – Please Notify Veterans There’s No Waiting List at the Zumwalt Mesothelioma Treatment Program in Los Angeles

The mesothelioma treatment team at the West LA VA Medical Center would love to have a list of veterans to treat. But there’s no list, no waiting list and no effort to educate our war heroes stricken with asbestos cancer that help is available.You’ve read about the double digit number of veterans who have allegedly died whilewaiting to be treated. We may never know how many veterans with mesothelioma have died after receiving no or sub-standard treatment.According to the popular literature, about 4,000 Americans are diagnosed with mesothelioma each year. Of those, roughly a third were exposed to asbestos while serving in the Navy. It’s not a stretch to surmise that at least 600 Navy veterans are diagnosed with mesothelioma every year–a diagnosis that carries …

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Breakthrough harnesses light for controlled chemical reaction

When chemist Tehshik Yoon looks out his office window, he sees a source of energy to drive chemical reactions. Plants “learned” to synthesize chemicals with sunlight eons ago; Yoon came to the field a bit more recently.But this week, in the journal Science, he and three collaborators detail a way to use sunlight and two catalysts to create molecules that are difficult to make with conventional techniques.In chemistry, heat and ultraviolet (UV) light are commonly used to drive reactions. Although light can power reactions that heat cannot, UV has disadvantages, says Yoon, a chemistry professor at University of Wisconsin-Madison. The UV often used in industry carries so much energy that “it’s dangerous to use, unselective, and prone to making unwanted by-products.”Many chemicals exist in two forms that are mirror images of each other, and Yoon is interested in reactions that make only one of those images.”It’s like your hands,” Yoon says. “They are similar, but not identical; a left-hand glove does not fit the right hand. It’s the same way with molecules in biology; many fail unless they have the correct ‘handedness,’ or ‘chirality.'”The pharmaceutical industry, in particular, is concerned about controlling chirality in drugs, but making those shapes is a hit-or-miss proposition with UV light, Yoon says.He says the new technique answers a question posed by a French chemist in 1874, who suggested using light to make products with controlled chirality. “Chemists could never do that efficiently, and so the prejudice was that it was too difficult to do.”When a graduate student asked for a challenging project seven years ago, Yoon asked him to explore powering reactions compounds with metals that are used to capture the sun’s energy in solar cells. In a solar cell, these metals release electrons to make electricity.”We are taking the electrons that these metals spin out and using their energy to promote a chemical reaction,” Yoon says.Plants do the same thing during photosynthesis, he says: absorb light, release high-energy electrons, and use those electrons to bond water and carbon dioxide into sugars. That reaction is the basis of essentially all of agriculture and all food chains.Once the solar-cell metal supplied electrons, Yoon thought about using a second catalyst to control chirality. He passed the project to Juana Du, another graduate student.”She must have synthesized 70 different catalysts,” says Yoon. …

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New patenting guidelines needed for biotechnology

Biotechnology scientists must be aware of the broad patent landscape and push for new patent and licensing guidelines, according to a new paper from Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy.Published in the current issue of the journal Regenerative Medicine, the paper is based on the June 2013 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the case Association for Molecular Pathology (AMP) v. Myriad Genetics that naturally occurring genes are unpatentable. The court case and rulings garnered discussion in the public about patenting biological materials.”The AMP v. Myriad Genetics case raises questions about the patent system,” said Kirstin Matthews, the Baker Institute fellow in science and technology policy and an expert on ethical and policy issues related to biomedical research and development. She co-authored the paper with Maude Rowland Cuchiara, the Baker Institute scholar for science and technology policy. The paper has timely significance in light of President Barack Obama’s recent announcements on reforming the nation’s patent process, including an initiative announced in February to “crowdsource” the review of patents.”There are not many opportunities to challenge patents once they have been granted, and the options that are available are costly and mostly limited to lawsuits,” Matthews said. Judges typically do not have the scientific knowledge to understand some of the technical arguments that are made in their courts, she said. “It may be better, as President Obama has proposed, to revise patenting guidelines at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office based on feedback from scientists, engineers, ethicists and policy scholars as opposed to leaving it up to the courts.”Until the Supreme Court’s decision, Myriad Genetics was the only company in the U.S. …

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New way to filter light: May provide first directional selectivity for light waves

Light waves can be defined by three fundamental characteristics: their color (or wavelength), polarization, and direction. While it has long been possible to selectively filter light according to its color or polarization, selectivity based on the direction of propagation has remained elusive.But now, for the first time, MIT researchers have produced a system that allows light of any color to pass through only if it is coming from one specific angle; the technique reflects all light coming from other directions. This new approach could ultimately lead to advances in solar photovoltaics, detectors for telescopes and microscopes, and privacy filters for display screens.The work is described in a paper appearing this week in the journal Science, written by MIT graduate student Yichen Shen, professor of physics Marin Soljačić, and four others. “We are excited about this,” Soljačić says, “because it is a very fundamental building block in our ability to control light.”The new structure consists of a stack of ultrathin layers of two alternating materials where the thickness of each layer is precisely controlled. “When you have two materials, then generally at the interface between them you will have some reflections,” Soljačić explains. But at these interfaces, “there is this magical angle called the Brewster angle, and when you come in at exactly that angle and the appropriate polarization, there is no reflection at all.”While the amount of light reflected at each of these interfaces is small, by combining many layers with the same properties, most of the light can be reflected away — except for that coming in at precisely the right angle and polarization.Using a stack of about 80 alternating layers of precise thickness, Shen says, “We are able to reflect light at most of the angles, over a very broad band [of colors]: the entire visible range of frequencies.”Previous work had demonstrated ways of selectively reflecting light except for one precise angle, but those approaches were limited to a narrow range of colors of light. The new system’s breadth could open up many potential applications, the team says.Shen says, “This could have great applications in energy, and especially in solar thermophotovoltaics” — harnessing solar energy by using it to heat a material, which in turn radiates light of a particular color. That light emission can then be harnessed using a photovoltaic cell tuned to make maximum use of that color of light. But for this approach to work, it is essential to limit the heat and light lost to reflections, and re-emission, so the ability to selectively control those reflections could improve efficiency.The findings could also prove useful in optical systems, such as microscopes and telescopes, for viewing faint objects that are close to brighter objects — for example, a faint planet next to a bright star. By using a system that receives light only from a certain angle, such devices could have an improved ability to detect faint targets. …

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Looking to have fun during March madness? Don’t bet on it!

Planning to enter an office pool during this year’s NCAA March Madness tournament? Be careful. You might not enjoy the games very much if you bet, says a researcher at Olin Business School at Washington University in St. Louis.”Predictions become more aversive when the outcome of the event is highly uncertain,” as in the upcoming basketball tournament, says Stephen M. Nowlis, PhD, the August A. Busch, Jr. Distinguished Professor in Marketing.Nowlis is co-author of a 2008 paper in the Journal of Consumer Research titled “The Effect of Making a Prediction About the Outcome of a Consumption Experience on the Enjoyment of That Experience.”The current popularity of office pools, spoiler message boards and online betting sites seems to suggest that the act of prediction increases enjoyment of watching a sporting event.However, in a series of four experiments, Nowlis found that consumers who make predictions about uncertain events experience significantly less enjoyment while observing the events than those who don’t make predictions.”We thought the opposite would be true,” Nowlis says. “We explain our results in terms of anticipated regret. In fact, removing the source of anticipated regret eliminates the negative effect of prediction on enjoyment.”Even if you think you are absolutely sure you know the team that will win this year’s tournament, you may still not have much fun if you lay down some money.”One compelling finding from our studies was that, among those who made predictions, participants who were correct enjoyed the event no more than those who were incorrect,” Nowlis says.Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by Washington University in St. Louis. …

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Harnessing everyday motion to power mobile devices

Imagine powering your cell phone by simply walking around your office or rubbing it with the palm of your hand. Rather than plugging it into the wall, you become the power source. Researchers at the 247th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS) presented these commercial possibilities and a unique vision for green energy.The meeting, attended by thousands of scientists, features more than 10,000 reports on new advances in science and other topics. It is being held at the Dallas Convention Center and area hotels through Thursday.Zhong Lin Wang, Ph.D., and his team, including graduate student Long Lin who presented the work, have set out to transform the way we look at mechanical energy. Conventional energy sources have so far relied on century-old science that requires scattered, costly power plants and a grid to distribute electricity far and wide.”Today, coal, natural gas and nuclear power plants all use turbine-engine driven, electromagnetic-induction generators,” Wang explained. “For a hundred years, this has been the only way to convert mechanical energy into electricity.”But a couple of years ago, Wang’s team at the Georgia Institute of Technology was working on a miniature generator based on an energy phenomenon called the piezoelectric effect, which is electricity resulting from pressure. But to their surprise, it produced more power than expected. They investigated what caused the spike and discovered that two polymer surfaces in the device had rubbed together, producing what’s called a triboelectric effect — essentially what most of us know as static electricity.Building on that fortuitous discovery, Wang then developed the first triboelectric nanogenerator, or “TENG.” He paired two sheets of different materials together — one donates electrons, and the other accepts them. When the sheets touch, electrons flow from one to the other. When the sheets are separated, a voltage develops between them.Since his lab’s first publication on TENG in 2012, they have since boosted the power output density by a factor of 100,000, with the output power density reaching 300 Watts per square meter. …

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Icy wreckage discovered in nearby planetary system

Astronomers using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) telescope have discovered the splattered remains of comets colliding together around a nearby star; the researchers believe they are witnessing the total destruction of one of these icy bodies once every five minutes.The “smoking gun” implicating this frosty demolition is the detection of a surprisingly compact region of carbon monoxide (CO) gas swirling around the young, nearby star Beta Pictoris.”Molecules of CO can survive around a star for only a brief time, about 100 years, before being destroyed by UV radiation,” said Bill Dent, a researcher at the Joint ALMA Office in Santiago, Chile, and lead author on a paper published in the journal Science online at the Science Express website. “So unless we are observing Beta Pictoris at a very unusual time, then the carbon monoxide we observed must be continuously replenished.”Comets and other icy bodies trap vast amounts of CO and other gases in their frosty interiors. When these objects collide, as is common in the chaotic environment around a young star, they quickly release their stored gases. If these collisions were occurring randomly in this system, then the CO would be more or less evenly distributed.But the new images from ALMA show something else: a single compact clump of CO approximately 13 billion kilometers (8 billion miles) from the star — or about three times the distance of Neptune to the Sun. “This clump is an important clue to what’s going on in the outer reaches of this young planetary system,” says Mark Wyatt, an astronomer at the University of Cambridge and coauthor on the paper.Earlier observations of Beta Pictoris with other telescopes revealed that it is surrounded by a large disk of dusty debris and harbors at least one planet orbiting approximately 1.2 billion kilometers (750 million miles) from the star.The new ALMA data suggest, however, that there may be a second, as-yet-undetected planet orbiting much farther out. The gravity from such a planet would shepherd millions of cometary bodies into a relatively confined area. A similar phenomenon is seen in our own Solar System where the planet Jupiter keeps a group of so-called Trojan asteroids in a confined orbit around the Sun.”To get the amount of CO we observed — which is equal to about one-sixth the mass of Earth’s oceans — the rate of collisions would be truly startling, with the complete destruction of a large comet once every five minutes,” noted Aki Roberge, an astronomer at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, and coauthor on the paper. “To get this number of collisions, this would have to be a very tight, massive swarm.”The astronomers propose an alternate possibility for the origin of this swarm of icy bodies; two Mars-size icy planets smashing together within the past million years could have produced the compact, cometary debris around the star. Such an occurrence, however, would be rare and there is a low likelihood that it could have occurred recently enough for the remnants to still be so concentrated.Both possibilities, however, give astronomers reason to be optimistic that there are many more planets waiting to be found around Beta Pictoris, which is located a relatively nearby 63 light-years from Earth in the southern constellation Pictor.ALMA’s unprecedented resolution and sensitivity enabled the astronomers to detect the faint millimeter-wavelength light emitted by both the dust grains and CO in the system.”And carbon monoxide is just the beginning; there may be other more complex pre-organic molecules released from these icy bodies,” adds Roberge.The astronomers hope that further observations with ALMA will shed more light on this system and help us understand what conditions were like during the formation of our own Solar System.ALMA, an international astronomy facility, is a partnership of Europe, North America and East Asia in cooperation with the Republic of Chile. ALMA construction and operations are led on behalf of Europe by ESO, on behalf of North America by the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO), and on behalf of East Asia by the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ). …

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Superconductivity in orbit: Scientists find new path to loss-free electricity

Brookhaven Lab researchers captured the distribution of multiple orbital electrons to help explain the emergence of superconductivity in iron-based materials. Armed with just the right atomic arrangements, superconductors allow electricity to flow without loss and radically enhance energy generation, delivery, and storage. Scientists tweak these superconductor recipes by swapping out elements or manipulating the valence electrons in an atom’s outermost orbital shell to strike the perfect conductive balance. Most high-temperature superconductors contain atoms with only one orbital impacting performance — but what about mixing those elements with more complex configurations?Now, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory have combined atoms with multiple orbitals and precisely pinned down their electron distributions. Using advanced electron diffraction techniques, the scientists discovered that orbital fluctuations in iron-based compounds induce strongly coupled polarizations that can enhance electron pairing — the essential mechanism behind superconductivity. The study, set to publish soon in the journal Physical Review Letters, provides a breakthrough method for exploring and improving superconductivity in a wide range of new materials.While the effect of doping the multi-orbital barium iron arsenic — customizing its crucial outer electron count by adding cobalt — mirrors the emergence of high-temperature superconductivity in simpler systems, the mechanism itself may be entirely different.”Now superconductor theory can incorporate proof of strong coupling between iron and arsenic in these dense electron cloud interactions,” said Brookhaven Lab physicist and study coauthor Weiguo Yin. “This unexpected discovery brings together both orbital fluctuation theory and the 50-year-old ‘excitonic’ theory for high-temperature superconductivity, opening a new frontier for condensed matter physics.”Atomic Jungle GymImagine a child playing inside a jungle gym, weaving through holes in the multicolored metal matrix in much the same way that electricity flows through materials. This particular kid happens to be wearing a powerful magnetic belt that repels the metal bars as she climbs. This causes the jungle gym’s grid-like structure to transform into an open tunnel, allowing the child to slide along effortlessly. …

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Helping preserve independent living for seniors

Single seniors lead a risky life: after a fall, they often lie on the floor several hours before their awkward predicament is discovered. A sensor system detects these emergency situations automatically and sends an emergency signal.Mr. S. is visually impaired and dependent on a cane since suffering a stroke. Nevertheless, as a 70-yr old living alone, he would rather not move into a care home. Most older people harbor this wish. They want to stay in their own familiar surroundings and continue to live independently for as long as possible. According to data from the German Federal Statistical Office, this applies to 70 percent of seniors. Against better judgment, they are putting their health at risk, for not only does the risk of cardiovascular problems increase with age, but the risk of falling increases also. According to estimates, about 30 percent of those over 65 years of age living at home experience a fall at least once a year. …

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Matchmaking this Valentine’s Day: How it can bring you the most happiness

With Valentine’s Day around the corner, you may be thinking of pairing up two friends for a date. If you follow your instinct to play Cupid, it’ll pay off in happiness — not necessarily for the new couple, but definitely for you.According to new research, matchmaking, a time-honored tradition, brings intrinsic happiness to the matchmaker. To maximize the psychological benefits of matchmaking, you should take care to introduce two people who not only seem compatible but who would be unlikely to meet otherwise, researchers say.”At some point, most people have made matches between others — like grabbing two strangers by the arm at a party and introducing them to each other — or can think of a friend notorious for their efforts to make introductions,” says Lalin Anik, a postdoctoral fellow at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business. She notes that the rising popularity of social networking websites such as Facebook and LinkedIn has made matchmaking effortless and central to social life.Anik, with her colleague Michael Norton of the Harvard Business School, conducted an in-depth investigation of modern-day matchmaking, examining what motivates us to match others — even when it often goes wrong — and how we can reap the emotional benefits of socially linking others. In four studies, to be presented this week at the Society for Personality and Social Psychology (SPSP) annual conference in Austin, they used surveys, computer games, and in-lab social interactions to show when and why making matches between others boosts happiness.In one study, the researchers asked groups of participants to engage in a brief “get acquainted” task in the laboratory. They then asked participants to pair others in the group: One group of participants had to match pairs that they thought would get along; another group tried to match pairs that they thought would not get along; and a third group matched people on the basis of a random characteristic — their social security numbers. Participants who selected pairs of people who they thought would bond became happier as a result of their matchmaking. Those in the other two groups felt the same as they did before the task.In another study, the researchers created a simple computer game in which participants saw a target face and selected one of three other faces with whom they thought the target would best or worst get along. Once again, the matchmakers had the best experience and were willing to play the game much longer than participants asked to pair people on the basis of mutual dislike.Some participants received monetary rewards for each match made, while others did not. Interestingly, the researchers found that paying people diminished their interest in the game. …

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Ballistic transport in graphene suggests new type of electronic device

Using electrons more like photons could provide the foundation for a new type of electronic device that would capitalize on the ability of graphene to carry electrons with almost no resistance even at room temperature — a property known as ballistic transport.Research reported this week shows that electrical resistance in nanoribbons of epitaxial graphene changes in discrete steps following quantum mechanical principles. The research shows that the graphene nanoribbons act more like optical waveguides or quantum dots, allowing electrons to flow smoothly along the edges of the material. In ordinary conductors such as copper, resistance increases in proportion to the length as electrons encounter more and more impurities while moving through the conductor.The ballistic transport properties, similar to those observed in cylindrical carbon nanotubes, exceed theoretical conductance predictions for graphene by a factor of 10. The properties were measured in graphene nanoribbons approximately 40 nanometers wide that had been grown on the edges of three-dimensional structures etched into silicon carbide wafers.”This work shows that we can control graphene electrons in very different ways because the properties are really exceptional,” said Walt de Heer, a Regent’s professor in the School of Physics at the Georgia Institute of Technology. “This could result in a new class of coherent electronic devices based on room temperature ballistic transport in graphene. Such devices would be very different from what we make today in silicon.”The research, which was supported by the National Science Foundation, the Air Force Office of Scientific Research and the W.M. Keck Foundation, was reported February 5 in the journal Nature. The research was done through a collaboration of scientists from Georgia Tech in the United States, Leibniz Universitt Hannover in Germany, the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) in France and Oak Ridge National Laboratory — supported by the Department of Energy — in the United States.For nearly a decade, researchers have been trying to use the unique properties of graphene to create electronic devices that operate much like existing silicon semiconductor chips. But those efforts have met with limited success because graphene — a lattice of carbon atoms that can be made as little as one layer thick — cannot be easily given the electronic bandgap that such devices need to operate.De Heer argues that researchers should stop trying to use graphene like silicon, and instead use its unique electron transport properties to design new types of electronic devices that could allow ultra-fast computing — based on a new approach to switching. Electrons in the graphene nanoribbons can move tens or hundreds of microns without scattering.”This constant resistance is related to one of the fundamental constants of physics, the conductance quantum,” de Heer said. …

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Long-sought pattern of ancient light detected

Oct. 22, 2013 — The journey of light from the very early universe to modern telescopes is long and winding. The ancient light traveled billions of years to reach us, and along the way, its path was distorted by the pull of matter, leading to a twisted light pattern.This twisted pattern of light, called B-modes, has at last been detected. The discovery, which will lead to better maps of matter across our universe, was made using the National Science Foundation’s South Pole Telescope, with help from the Herschel space observatory.Scientists have long predicted two types of B-modes: the ones that were recently found were generated a few billion years into our universe’s existence (it is presently 13.8 billion years old). The others, called primordial, are theorized to have been produced when the universe was a newborn baby, fractions of a second after its birth in the Big Bang.”This latest discovery is a good checkpoint on our way to the measurement of primordial B-modes,” said Duncan Hanson of McGill University in Montreal, Canada, lead author of the new report published Sept. 30 in the online edition of Physical Review Letters.The elusive primordial B-modes may be imprinted with clues about how our universe was born. Scientists are currently combing through data from the Planck mission in search of them. Both Herschel and Planck are European Space Agency missions, with important NASA contributions.The oldest light we see around us today, called the cosmic microwave background, harkens back to a time just hundreds of millions of years after the universe was created. Planck recently produced the best-ever full-sky map of this light, revealing new details about of our cosmos’ age, contents and origins. A fraction of this ancient light is polarized, a process that causes light waves to vibrate in the same plane. …

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Mixing nanoparticles to make multifunctional materials

Oct. 20, 2013 — Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory have developed a general approach for combining different types of nanoparticles to produce large-scale composite materials. The technique, described in a paper published online by Nature Nanotechnology on October 20, 2013, opens many opportunities for mixing and matching particles with different magnetic, optical, or chemical properties to form new, multifunctional materials or materials with enhanced performance for a wide range of potential applications.The approach takes advantage of the attractive pairing of complementary strands of synthetic DNA-based on the molecule that carries the genetic code in its sequence of matched bases known by the letters A, T, G, and C. After coating the nanoparticles with a chemically standardized “construction platform” and adding extender molecules to which DNA can easily bind, the scientists attach complementary lab-designed DNA strands to the two different kinds of nanoparticles they want to link up. The natural pairing of the matching strands then “self-assembles” the particles into a three-dimensional array consisting of billions of particles. Varying the length of the DNA linkers, their surface density on particles, and other factors gives scientists the ability to control and optimize different types of newly formed materials and their properties.”Our study demonstrates that DNA-driven assembly methods enable the by-design creation of large-scale ‘superlattice’ nanocomposites from a broad range of nanocomponents now available-including magnetic, catalytic, and fluorescent nanoparticles,” said Brookhaven physicist Oleg Gang, who led the research at the Lab’s Center for Functional Nanomaterials (CFN). “This advance builds on our previous work with simpler systems, where we demonstrated that pairing nanoparticles with different functions can affect the individual particles’ performance, and it offers routes for the fabrication of new materials with combined, enhanced, or even brand new functions.”Future applications could include quantum dots whose glowing fluorescence can be controlled by an external magnetic field for new kinds of switches or sensors; gold nanoparticles that synergistically enhance the brightness of quantum dots’ fluorescent glow; or catalytic nanomaterials that absorb the “poisons” that normally degrade their performance, Gang said.”Modern nano-synthesis methods provide scientists with diverse types of nanoparticles from a wide range of atomic elements,” said Yugang Zhang, first author of the paper. “With our approach, scientists can explore pairings of these particles in a rational way.”Pairing up dissimilar particles presents many challenges the scientists investigated in the work leading to this paper. To understand the fundamental aspects of various newly formed materials they used a wide range of techniques, including x-ray scattering studies at Brookhaven’s National Synchrotron Light Source (NSLS) and spectroscopy and electron microcopy at the CFN.For example, the scientists explored the effect of particle shape. …

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Beware: Flesh Rotting Street Drug "Krokodil"

Krokodil Drug – May Have Come From Russia to the US Over a year ago the nation was shocked by the synthetic drug known as bath salts that was suspected in a horrific act of violence in Miami, Florida. Since then there have been national crackdowns on head shops and gas stations that sold the synthetic drug and news reports of it have dwindled. Last week a new drug, that proves just as, if not more, horrifying than bath salts may have hit the streets in the US.The drug is called “krokodil” because it causes users to break out in scaly sores like a crocodile. These sores aren’t a result of picking, as with meth addicts but from contaminants in the drug that cause human flesh to…

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Genome of elastomeric materials creates novel materials

Sep. 9, 2013 — A wide range of biologically inspired materials may now be possible by combining protein studies, materials science and RNA sequencing, according to an international team of researchers.”Biological methods of synthesizing materials are not new,” said Melik C. Demirel, professor of engineering science and mechanics, Penn State. “What is new is the application of these principles to produce unique materials.”The researchers looked at proteins because they are the building blocks of biological materials and also often control sequencing, growth and self-assembly. RNA produced from the DNA in the cells is the template for biological proteins. Materials science practices allow researchers to characterize all aspects of how a material functions. Combining these three approaches allows rapid characterization of natural materials and the translation of their molecular designs into useable, unique materials.”One problem with finding suitable biomimetic materials is that most of the genomes of model organisms have not yet been sequenced,” said Demirel who is also a member of the Materials Research Institute and Huck Institutes of Life Sciences, Penn State. “Also, the proteins that characterize these materials are notoriously difficult to solubilize and characterize.”The team, lead by Ali Miserez, assistant professor, School of Materials Science and Engineering, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, looked at mollusk-derived tissues that had a wide range of high-performance properties including self-healing elastomeric membranes and protein-based polymers. They combined a variety of approaches including protein sequencing, amino acid composition and a complete RNA reference database for mass spectrometry analysis. They present their results in a recent issue of Nature Biotechnology.The researchers looked at three model systems. …

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STEMI incidence falls in southern Switzerland after smoking ban implemented

Aug. 31, 2013 — STEMI incidence fell in southern Switzerland after implementation of the smoking ban in public places, reveals research presented at the ESC Congress today by Dr. Alessandra Pia Porretta from Switzerland.Second-hand smoke increases the risk of coronary artery disease and acute myocardial infarction. For this reason, health policies aimed at reducing tobacco consumption and public smoke exposure are strongly recommended.Dr Porretta said: “Canton Ticino (CT), which is one of the 26 cantons of the Swiss Federation, was the first Swiss canton to introduce a smoking ban in April 2007. We had the opportunity to assess the long-term impact of the smoking ban on the incidence of ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI) and to compare STEMI epidemiology with Canton Basel City (CBC), where the law was not yet implemented.”The principal investigator of the study (Dr Marcello Di Valentino) collected data retrospectively from the codified hospital discharge registry (ICD-10 codes) on STEMI hospitalisations in CT and CBC during the 3 years before (2004-2007) and after (2007-2010) the ban was implemented in CT.In CT, data were acquired from the four cantonal public hospitals and from Cardiocentro Ticino, an exclusive institution for invasive coronary interventions. In CBC, data were obtained from the public University Hospital of Basel. For each considered year, STEMI incidence per 100,000 inhabitants was calculated for both CT and CBC using demographic data from the Swiss Federal Statistical Office.The study found a significant and long-lasting reduction in the incidence of STEMI hospitalisations in the overall population of Canton Ticino after the smoking ban was implemented. Incidence reduced by an average of 21.1% between 2004-07 and 2007-2010. Compared to 2004-2007, incidence reduced by 23% in 2007-2008, 15% in 2008-2009, and 24% in 2009-2010.When population subsets were analysed, the researchers found that the significant and long-lasting reduction in STEMI admissions was observed only among older people, with a 27.4% post-ban decrease in women ≥65 years and a 27.3% reduction in men ≥65 years. Younger people (<65 years) of both sexes showed a reduction (statistically significant in men, near to significance in women) in STEMI admissions only in the first year after the ban was enforced, with no significant decrease in the second and third years.</p>Dr Porretta said: “The varying impact of smoke-free legislation between age groups may be explained in part by the different role played by passive and active smoking in younger and older people.”In CBC there was no change in the overall population incidence of STEMI between 2004-2007 and 2007-2010. …

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From cancer treatment to ion thruster: The newest little idea for nanosat micro rockets

Aug. 29, 2013 — Nanosatellites are smartphone-sized spacecraft that can perform simple, yet valuable, space missions. Dozens of these little vehicles are now tirelessly orbiting Earth performing valuable functions for NASA, the Department of Defense and even private companies.Nanosatellites borrow many of their components from terrestrial gadgets: miniaturized cameras, wireless radios and GPS receivers that have been perfected for hand-held devices are also perfect for spacecraft. However, according to Michigan Technological University’s L. Brad King, there is at least one technology need that is unique to space: “Even the best smartphones don’t have miniaturized rocket engines, so we need to develop them from scratch.”Miniature rockets aren’t needed to launch a nanosatellite from Earth. The small vehicles can hitchhike with a regular rocket that is going that way anyway. But because they are hitchhikers, these nanosats don’t always get dropped off in their preferred location. Once in space, a nanosatellite might need some type of propulsion to move it from its drop-off point into its desired orbit. This is where the micro rocket engine comes in.For the last few years, researchers around the world have been trying to build such rockets using microscopic hollow needles to electrically spray thin jets of fluid, which push the spacecraft in the opposite direction. The fluid propellant is a special chemical known as an ionic liquid. …

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Loan debt shapes students’ college years, experiences

Aug. 10, 2013 — An Indiana University study found that college students’ experiences are largely shaped by the debt they accrue, with debt-free students more likely to live the “play hard” lifestyle often associated with the college years, where social lives can trump academics.Sociologist Daniel Rudel said this is one of the first studies to examine how student loan debt affects students’ college experiences. He and colleague Natasha Yurk, also a graduate student in the Department of Sociology in IU Bloomington’s College of Arts and Sciences, found “real and significant differences in experiences,” with students falling fairly easily into one of three categories.• Play hard.Students without loan debt appeared most likely to live a lifestyle characterized by relatively little time studying but also characterized by a rich social life. Students tended to be much more involved in extracurricular activities and spent more time partying, developing relationships and networks that could last long after college.• Disengaged students.Some students with debt appeared to see it as a liability that kept them from partaking in campus life. They spent relatively little time on campus activities, including studying.• Serious students.Some students with debt appeared to accept the challenge and responsibility of the debt. They studied more than the other two categories of students, worked but also participated in extracurricular activities to prepare themselves for a good job after graduation. These students did not party much.”These patterns could affect the social connections and networking students develop in college, where these relationships can lead to friendships, employment, marriage partners and other benefits,” Rudel said.Rudel and Yurk discussed their study, “Responsibility or Liability? Student Loan Debt and Time Use in College,” in New York at 4:30 p.m. Saturday at the American Sociological Association’s 108th annual meeting.The researchers examined data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Freshmen, housed in the Office of Population Research at Princeton University. Students interviewed from 1999 to 2003 attended one of 28 selective U.S. …

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Tidy desk or messy desk? Each has its benefits

Aug. 6, 2013 — Working at a clean and prim desk may promote healthy eating, generosity, and conventionality, according to new research. But, the research also shows that a messy desk may confer its own benefits, promoting creative thinking and stimulating new ideas.The new studies, conducted by psychological scientist Kathleen Vohs and her fellow researchers at the University of Minnesota are published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.”Prior work has found that a clean setting leads people to do good things: Not engage in crime, not litter, and show more generosity,” Vohs explains. “We found, however, that you can get really valuable outcomes from being in a messy setting.”In the first of several experiments, participants were asked to fill out some questionnaires in an office. Some completed the task in a clean and orderly office, while others did so in an unkempt one — papers were strewn about, and office supplies were cluttered here and there.Afterward, the participants were presented with the opportunity to donate to a charity, and they were allowed to take a snack of chocolate or an apple on their way out.Being in a clean room seemed to encourage people to do what was expected of them, Vohs explains. Compared with participants in the messy room, they donated more of their own money to charity and were more likely to choose the apple over the candy bar.But the researchers hypothesized that messiness might have its virtues as well. In another experiment, participants were asked to come up with new uses for ping pong balls.Overall, participants in the messy room generated the same number of ideas for new uses as their clean-room counterparts. But their ideas were rated as more interesting and creative when evaluated by impartial judges.”Being in a messy room led to something that firms, industries, and societies want more of: Creativity,” says Vohs.The researchers also found that when participants were given a choice between a new product and an established one, those in the messy room were more likely to prefer the novel one — a signal that being in a disorderly environment stimulates a release from conventionality. Whereas participants in a tidy room preferred the established product over the new one.”Disorderly environments seem to inspire breaking free of tradition, which can produce fresh insights,” Vohs concludes. “Orderly environments, in contrast, encourage convention and playing it safe.”Surprisingly, the specific physical location didn’t seem to matter: “We used 6 different locations in our paper — the specifics of the rooms were not important. …

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New insight into how brain ‘learns’ cocaine addiction

Aug. 1, 2013 — A team of researchers says it has solved the longstanding puzzle of why a key protein linked to learning is also needed to become addicted to cocaine. Results of the study, published in the Aug. 1 issue of the journal Cell, describe how the learning-related protein works with other proteins to forge new pathways in the brain in response to a drug-induced rush of the “pleasure” molecule dopamine. By adding important detail to the process of addiction, the researchers, led by a group at Johns Hopkins, say the work may point the way to new treatments.”The broad question was why and how cocaine strengthened certain circuits in the brain long term, effectively re-wiring the brain for addiction,” says Paul Worley, M.D., a professor in the Solomon H. Snyder Department of Neuroscience at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “What we found in this study was how two very different types of systems in the brain work together to make that happen.” Cocaine addiction, experts say, is among the strongest of addictions.Worley did not come to the problem as an addiction researcher, but as an expert in a group of genes known as immediate early genes, which rapidly ramp up production in neurons when the brain is exposed to new information. In 2001, he said, a European group led by François Conquet of GlaxoSmithKline reported that deleting mGluR5, a protein complex that responds to the common brain-signaling molecule glutamate, made mice unresponsive to cocaine. “That finding came out of the blue,” says Worley, who knew mGluR proteins for their interactions with immediate early genes. “I never would have thought this type of protein was linked to dopamine and addiction, because the functions for it that we knew about up to that point were completely unrelated. …

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